This is the recipe for the traditional madeira honey cake (made usually on Christmas but also all round the year on the island of Madeira and named originally in Portuguese, bolo de mel.


  • 9 ounces (250 g) bread dough from the baker's shop
  • 90 ounces (2.5 kg) flour
  • 35 ounces (1 kg) sugar
  • 26 ounces (750 g) '\'banha'', this is pork fat
  • 17 ounces (500 g) butter
  • 1 ounce (25 g) erva-doce, this is anise herbs, mashed and sifted
  • 1.75 ounce (50 g) canela, which is cinnamon
  • 1 ounce (25 g) cravinho da india, which are cloves in powder form
  • 17 ounces (500 g) walnut, cut into halves
  • 9 ounces (250 g) almonds, ground in the cutter
  • 1.75 ounce (50 g) candied lemon peel, cut into cubes
  • 60 ounces (1.8 l) pure honey
  • 5 Tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda, (dissolved in the Madeira Wine)
  • 1 cup of Madeira Wine
  • juice and zest of 4 orangess

One day before making the cake buy the bread-dough at the baker's shop, pass a little bit of flour on the dough, put it in a towel and keep it in a warm place until next day. Put the bicarbonate of soda into the Madeira, dissolve. In a pan warm up the honey, join butter and pork fat (if not available, just use butter), dissolve. Let this mixture cool down. Sift flour into a bowl, join sugar, shape a crater and put the bread dough in the middle. Now work the flour-sugar-mixture into the bread dough. As soon as this is well joined, start to incorporate little by little the (tepid) honey-fat-mixture. Join (part of) the candied lemon peel, the cup of Madeira Wine, orange juice and orange zest, anise, cinnamon, cloves. Incorporate and knead thoroughly until the dough doesn't stick on the bowl. Cover the dough with a towel and put it into a warm cover. Keep it in a warm place for 3-4 days. Divide the dough into parts of 250g or 500g or 750 g, depending on the pans to put into the oven. This cake is made in wide, round pans which are rather low. Before going into the oven, the cake is decorated with half-walnuts, sliced almonds and (the rest of) candied lemon peel. Grease the baking pans, bake about 50 minutes 355 F (180 C). Let cool down before taking out of baking pan.

In Madeira these honey cakes are made on 8 December, the day of Mary's Conception, because tradition says this cake is only good for Xmas if it is made on this day.

It is a custom to make enough of this cake in order to have some during the whole year. Once cooled down and thoroughly wrapped into vegetable paper it remains good until next Xmas without losing quality or taste.

Another tradition surrounding this cake is that it is not cut with knives but by hand and also eaten by hand, nothing more than a usual tradition but very respected among Madeira locals.